Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Shadow of Night by Deborah Harkness

What happens when you throw a modern female historian into 16th century England - does she know as much as she thinks? Can she cope? That's just what happens in this installment of the search for the rare alchemical book Ashmole 782.

Second in the All Souls Trilogy that began with A Discovery of Witches, this novel continues both the love story and the epic quest of historian witch Diana Bishop and her scientist vampire Matthew Clairemont. And while I devoured the first book in practically a single sitting, this one I enjoyed in audiobook format, spread over 24 hours and several weeks in the car. (This audio version read by Jennifer Ikeda is outstanding.)

Diana and Matthew mission in the time travel is twofold: study up on Diana's previously untapped powers of witchcraft, and attempt to lay hands on the Ashmole manuscript before it's torn apart. They slip into Matthew's own actual past, which creates some new challenges - since he was at that time a sworn enemy of witches but suddenly not only consorts with one but marries her.

These arrangements allows Diana a unique peek into Matthew's past, as she gets to meet long-dead friends, enemies, and family, but she also gains a deeper understanding for a long-lifed vampire's very necessary half-truths, constant goodbyes, and ever-shifting personas.

This book's a bit of a whimsy - a historical story stuck in the middle of a contemporary series. And it's fun to read; the fish-out-of-water element of dealing with a patriarchal, monarchical society puts Diana on unsure footing from the start.

No Strings Attached

by Susan Andersen

Andersen is back in Razor Bay with the last of the Bradshaw brothers.  Luc was disillusioned to discover the man he'd idolized had fathered, then abandoned two other sons.  Upon sneaking into town to check them out, he discovers another secret.  The woman he spent a great night with years ago lives there, too, and she's none to happy to see him.

Tasha remembers "Diego" as the rat-bastard that let her rot in a Bahamian jail on trumped up charges.  No way, no how is getting anywhere near her happy place again.  She doesn't care if he is the brother of her best friend's fiance. 

Um, yeah.  A little thing called chemistry teams up with honesty to knock them both for a loop.  If you liked the earlier books in the series, you'll enjoy this one, too.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

There Goes Gravity: A Life in Rock and Roll by Lisa Robinson

Lisa Robinson has been everywhere and knows everyone ... or at least, most of the cool music people you wish you knew. That's what this book is about: a behind-the-scenes look at rock stars from the 1970s through today. It's not Robinson's memoir or autobiography; you only learn bits and pieces about her through the other stories. Instead, the book is about the people who make music, who tour to entertain us, and what they're like outside the spotlight.

Robinson toured with Led Zeppelin and the Rolling Stones, but she's not a relic of rock days gone by. Did you catch the book title is an Eminem lyric? Robinson's stories run the gamut from New York Dolls to Kanye West, Jay-Z, Michael Jackson, David Bowie, John Lennon and Yoko Ono.

There's no real cohesive timeline or thematic evolution in the order the stories are told. For the most part they work from oldest to newest, but that's not strictly enforced. It's more like a casual sit-down with a great storyteller who's had some awesome experiences.

I enjoyed the book, but if you're not already a music fan you won't be convinced; you really need a little knowledge going into this book to get the most out of it. And she's not terribly concerned with helping you place these icons into any perspective - the deep thoughts and philosophy will be strictly your own. She may have been the only sober one at the party, but she was more concerned with having fun than gaining any real insights.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Red Rising by Pierce Brown

Darrow's part of a hard-working clan who spend their difficult, short lives mining underground on Mars in order to make the planet above hospitable for future colonization.

So he's shocked to discover everything he knows is a lie - for one, that Mars aboveground and many, many other planets and moons have been successfully inhabited for a very long time - when he's given an opportunity to join the rebellion and try to change things.

Comparisons to the Hunger Games series is inevitable - a "game" between young people that leads to the victor's eventual success in politics and society. But this book stands on its own - I didn't feel it was reactionary or derivative of Suzanne Collins' series. It's a great action-adventure story, full of strategy and twists, espionage and doubletalk. It's easy to forget (as it is for the competitors) that there's more to life on Mars than what's happening inside the game.

The book ends in a place that made me say "REALLY? Really!" and the countdown for the second in the series has begun ("Golden Son" has a January release date).

Monday, July 7, 2014

The Savages by Matt Whyman

The whole Savage family is obsessed with food: the perfect preparations, the ideal side dishes, a communal feast that brings them all together. But the secret's in the protein - it's from a very different source.

You'd think your teenage daughter dating an environmentally conscious hybrid-driving vegetarian would be the least of a parent's worries - but then, you don't have secrets like the Savage family. Sasha Savage has got her plate full of trouble with Jack, and it turns out being a flesh-eater is just the tip of the iceberg (lettuce).

We know from the start something bad happens to reveal the family's secrets; it's just a matter of getting there. How does it all unravel? Is younger brother Ivan really that inept?

It's a light book and hardly even gory, given its subject matter. The gross absurdity of the situation makes it comical, and the author did a wonderful job on simple philosophy and history to explain how it could even be possible to rationalize something like cannibalism. Or veganism. Or whatever culinary belief system you'd like to buy into. ;)

Ask Me by Kimberly Pauley

When a high school girl goes missing and then turns up dead, there are bound to be questions - but not everybody wants to hear the truth, and certainly not the whole, gory, unvarnished truth. With a mystical truth-teller in their presence though, the town might get a lot more than they bargained for when pondering what happened to Jade Price.

Aria is trying to keep quiet the fact she's an oracle - a descendant of the mythological prognosticators - who is compelled to truthfully answer every question overheard in her presence. She cannot stop the words when even inadvertent questions are asked, but they're not always clear-cut answers (sometimes its a riddle, a poem, or some obscured truth).

Aria tempers the truth by using her headphones to drown out the questions and by mumbling in public. But neither of those solutions are making high school easy for the 17 year old as questions fly fast and furious. When both of Jade's "boyfriends" start paying attention to Aria, the killer will have to be revealed eventually, right? But again, the truth isn't always crystal clear.

They mystery element is well done, and I changed my mind several times as I tried to predict where the story was going. This was a fun book, and it also made me spend some time thinking about how awful life would be if you couldn't lie or even control your own mouth. (yes - I see you laughing. shut up)

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Then Came You by Jill Shalvis

Shalvis' Animal Magnetism series is back.  Veterinary intern, Emily Stevens is prepared for the struggle of living in Idaho, of all places.  She's not, however, prepared for her only one-night stand to be her boss.

Dr. Wyatt Stone is sex on a stick in Emily's eyes.  She sees him as a temporarily attainable treat that must be resisted if she has any hope of living up to her life plan.  Dr. Stone appears to be ultra-laid back and cool.  He's got a smooth as whiskey voice that soothes the most skittish animal - or woman.  Under it all is also a determined alpha male whose heart has been broken one too many times.

Tag along with Shalvis' true to form witty banter as a fiercely independent woman tries to hold off a man willing to kill spiders for her.  It's the kind of book that makes the reader hold her breath in excitement to find out what happens next, only to finish with the thought, "I'm already done?!?"